- It was my maiden open letter to any ‘big’ person in this country, never mind one who occupies the top spot and oozes such power that he can sign a piece of paper requiring us all to stay home and we will have no choice.
On Sunday evening, I began to pen an open letter to the President through this column.
It was my maiden open letter to any ‘big’ person in this country, never mind one who occupies the top spot and oozes such power that he can sign a piece of paper requiring us all to stay home and we will have no choice.
I wondered whether I should dig deep into my primary and secondary school repertoire and begin the letter with ‘the brightness of this day has given me the opportunity to write to you this wonderful letter’.
Should I enquire after the health of each member of the Presidential household, starting with the lovely First Lady and working my way down? Or would that be a bit too intrusive?
I tried to resist the temptation on both fronts and eventually got sailing. My subject matter?
Ah, the relatively dicey rumour that had been dancing in the air for the past few days over the prospect of churches being allowed to reopen for services to resume after the coronavirus outbreak led to a presidential ban on various gatherings, including church services.
Initially, word on the social media grapevine was that the churches had petitioned, or were lobbying the President to reopen the churches and had spelt out various measures to control the possible spread of the virus. I found that rather incredulous and so, I decided to snoop around the various news websites for further information. This is what I found on ghanaweb.com; ‘The Heads of Christian Ecumenical Bodies in Ghana have issued guidelines to mitigate the spread of coronavirus when church reopens. The bodies that presented the guidelines included the Christian Council, the National Association of Charismatic and Christian Churches, Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference.’
Lifting the ban: Political ruse?
The view therefore was that it was a sign the President would lift the ban soon.
Of course, some political activists began screaming, positing that the President had capitulated to the religious brigade at the expense of public health, as if it was a fait accompli and that they actually sat in at the meeting when the President made that decision.
One friend told me that in reality, it was not about the churches, and that the imminent lifting of the ban on gatherings was political — to pave the way for the Electoral Commission (EC) to conduct its new voter registration exercise and also for the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to hold its parliamentary primaries. He had forgotten that this same claim had been raised ahead of the latest broadcast and had fallen flat. Of course he had a mouthful for politicians. He had such zeal and confidence that the President would lift the ban.
I was firing away on why I thought it was too early to lift the ban, while sipping my favourite drink for inspiration, when a little bleep on my mobile phone informed me I had a WhatsApp message.
I paused, wearily expecting a dry joke which had been circulated around the world several times and which a friend probably thought I had not seen.
It was a message from a friend alright. But he was asking for confirmation of a rumour he had heard, that the President would be addressing the nation later that evening.
I informed him I had heard no such news and promised to sniff around and contact a few friends who worked in politically elevated environments.
My brief investigations revealed that indeed the President would be addressing the nation at 9.30pm on Sunday evening and that the Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, had confirmed same on television. I relayed the confirmation to my friend.
Letter abandoned: Pain, elation
With barely two hours to go to the broadcast, I felt my letter would be useless, because it was certain the President would address the matter of the ban in his broadcast. If he lifted it, my letter urging him to keep it would be pointless because it would be published two days after the lifting.
If he maintained it, it would be equally pointless to urge him to do so when in fact he had already done so.
Of course, my drink could not wait, because come what may, I still needed inspiration.
The pain of my abandoned letter lay in the fact that I had been assembling my thoughts and laying out my long arguments as my basis for urging an extension of the ban. I had done my research.
I had my facts and figures. I had my sources. I was on a roll as I pounded the keyboard of my dependable laptop and the letters flew unto my screen. In one fell swoop, the announcement of the imminent broadcast simply dismantled all my arguments.
As it turned out, the President extended the ban till May 31, 2020. I was elated. Even though my letter had not seen light of day, I felt vindicated and believed, in my delusion, that I could claim some credit, as if the President had read my mind from several miles away and had made his decision on the back of that. Immediately, my mind turned to those who had predicted a lifting of the ban with the confidence and zeal of a lottery doctor plying his trade in public and holding a crowd spellbound. I could imagine their crestfallen faces. Intended propaganda had gone awry once again. As they say in football, ‘suulia!!’
Not out yet
As the experts have told us, we are not out of the woods yet. That is precisely why we must all tread with utmost caution. The revelation by the President that just one person had infected 533 persons at a fish processing establishment in Tema sent shivers down many spines in this Republic on Sunday evening and should remind us of the horrible dangers that we face if we decide to open schools and churches and beaches now, and also to allow festivals and funerals and weddings, among others.
The science and the data simply do not support this and we should simply not tempt fate anytime soon.
It should also tell us that in places such as markets, the district assemblies should be stricter in enforcing social distancing, wearing of masks and hygiene protocols, given that we need these markets as sources of food to help with our very survival. All of us must step up our efforts to combat this dreadful disease.
While my letter lies in tatters and unfit for purpose today, I am glad the President and I are of one mind. That is some claim to fame, in my idle mind.
I believe ardently that another fine opportunity will arise sometime soon for me to write to His Excellency on one subject or the other through this column.
When that day comes, my drink of inspiration shall sit faithfully by my side as I pound away at the keyboards, my mind keenly fixed on the image of the President at his desk in Jubilee House, devouring my letter with a smile and a gentle nod of agreement.
When that happens, dear readers, I think we can all proclaim that “this column has arrived!”